Bringing Comfort to Those Touched by Cancer


Bali, Indonesia

Luisa Anderson is the Regional Spa Director for Four Seasons Asia-Pacific, a former oncology nurse and social worker, certified yoga teacher and recently completed a diploma in sound healing. Here, she answers questions about what inspired her to launch Cancer Care Massage at Four Seasons Resorts Bali to bring comfort to people touched by cancer.

Is this a first for Four Seasons?

It’s a first for Four Seasons in Asia-Pacific, the Middle-East and Europe. Some of our spa teams in the Americas have done similar training.

What is groundbreaking about the Four Seasons Cancer Care massage?

Offering these services in the exotic environment of an Asian resort setting with fully qualified and exceptionally connected therapists, is groundbreaking. I am not aware of any other hotel spa in Asia-Pacific offering treatments to people touched by cancer. I myself had been hesitant to explore this area until I met Christine Clinton at a conference.

What made you overcome that initial hesitancy to explore cancer care treatments?

It was a combination of being personally touched by friends and family with cancer over last few years, my background as an oncology nurse, and always looking for ways to use my skills to help people improve their wellness.  Also the drive to keep educating and developing my team of spa therapists.

How did your experience as an oncology nurse motivate you to introduce this programming at Four Seasons?

As an oncology nurse, I personally witnessed the horrific side effects of cancer treatments – such as lymphodema, scarring, radiation burns and other skin conditions, weight loss, digestive impairment, mouth ulcers, as well as mental and emotional stress. My experience showed me that massage can ease this discomfort.  I cared for my brother-in-law for the last two months of his life and massaged him almost every day.  It was hugely comforting for him.

Do you expect big demand for Cancer Care Massage?

Our hope is that many guests see this opportunity to live well at any stage of the cancer journey and that they have the confidence to book a holiday where they know they are in safe hands and not excluded or ostracised. Previously we had guests from time to time who asked about such spa services, but the team never felt confident to take care of them.  I am sure there were many other guests who didn’t ask, and simply didn't book spa treatments because they assumed they would be turned away.

Are these treatments the same for male and female?

Yes, they are not dependent on gender. They are dependent on the type and location of the cancer, surgery, scar tissue, radiation effects, type of chemotherapy, prosthetics etc.  Because of the high incidence of breast cancer, women often have more issues with lymph drainage.

What sensitivities do therapists need to be aware of?

All of the above along with the guest’s current blood count.  Guests with low white cell count or platelets would not generally travel, but the spa is open to local residents and our therapists have been trained in these variables.

Are there other diseases/conditions that might benefit from Cancer Care Massage?

This training has greatly expanded the skills of our therapists and showed their capacity for compassion. The case studies and connection with the Bali Pink Fighters (a support group for women touched by cancer who participated in the massage trials during the training) has increased their confidence to handle guests with different conditions. For example if we had a guest who was an amputee from an accident or as a result of diabetes, our therapists would no longer be daunted managing this and would adapt their care accordingly.

What changed therapists' minds about massage not being harmful to cancer patients?

Cancer care is about inclusivity and breaking down barriers, to improve quality of life.  You can have cancer and still be a “well” person. We had quite a big session on this in the training as historically cancer has been a contraindication to massage, and there is still huge amount of stigma out there especially in Asia. The training included videos of cancer survivors talking about their experience with Cancer Care Massage and lots of photos of before and after.  Therapists learned how massage helped people who had scars, radiation burns, lymph congestion and other conditions. The practical sessions with the Pink Fighters also played a big part as the therapists could see how much comfort their touch brought to these women. It was not only physical comfort, but mental and emotional too. There was not a dry eye in the room.